Millions of Americans who thought they had seen the last of winter are recovering from the latest snowstorm to roar across the upper Midwest and Northeast.
The storm - of true blizzard proportions and followed by record low temperatures - closed schools, airports, businesses, and state agencies. Too, there were some reports of storm-related fatalities. And, say officials of the National Weather Service (NWS), more stormy weather is on the way.
''There's another storm coming out of the Rocky Mountains,'' says Ed Carlstead, chief of the NWS forecasting division. ''It appears that this pattern is continuing unabated, at least through next week.''
He cautions, however, that no two storms are alike and that the next one may ''trend much farther north, through the St. Lawrence valley,'' dumping more rain than snow on the regions below.
Mr. Carlstead says the April 6 storm pulled super-cold air out of northern Canada, allowing relatively milder air to move in behind. That warmer air will have a moderating effect, he says, that will all but insure that later storms will be less severe.
The wind-whipped snow is likely to have little impact on farming, according to John Busch of the US Department of Agriculture's Crop Reporting Board in Washington.
''I really think we'll survive this without any problems, with the possible exception of fruit trees,'' Mr. Busch says. ''A few nice warm days and things will right themselves in a hurry.''
Although Midwestern farmers have been watching the weather over the last several days with keen interest, the snows are not expected to delay spring corn planting, which begins in late April or early May.
''We'll have to wait until the ground thaws and the temperature gets back up before we plant, but the situation won't get critical until the end of April,'' says one Bloomington, Ill., farmer.
Neither are the spring storms expected to delay the June harvesting of winter wheat. Indeed, the foot of snow dropped on the fields so far provides the equivalent of about an inch of rain and should help rather than hinder wheat growth, according to Gene Malone of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The New York State Agriculture Department also reported a ''negligible'' impact on spring planting, since most field crops, with the notable exception of potatoes, are not usually planted for several more weeks.
The services of such organizations as the Illinois Emergency Services and Disaster Agency have been spread thin by the broad geographic reach of the damage. But agency director E. Erie Jones says his staff is finding that as many as 95 percent of those requiring assistance for damaged homes or other property carry substantial insurance.
Much of the damage reported in the Midwest so far is not generally considered as serious as that caused by the spring flooding several weeks ago.
In New England, where the storm is being compared to the far more destructive blizzard of February 1978, much of the impact is being measured in terms of snow-removal costs. Winds reaching 83 m.p.h. in spots continuously drifted snow back across roads that had been plowed only moments before.
The state of Massachusetts had long since depleted its $12 million snow budget, forcing the Department of Public Works (DPW) to ask the Legislature for not know how much the storm will cost, but estimated it would run about $100,000 per inch per hour of snowfall.
Newspapers and broadcasting stations in Massachusetts were making much of the fact that Gov. Edward J. King (D) was on a week-long, unannounced vacation in Florida when the storm struck. The governor was in regular contact with his staff by telephone and was assured by assistants that it was not necessary for him to return to Boston.
But the situation assumed political significance since Mr. King's predecessor , Michael Dukakis, maintained a highly visible profile during the 1978 emergency , personally supervising such matters as traffic control and aid to those in storm-damaged houses. Mr. Dukakis is challenging King for reelection, as is the man who has been lieutenant governor to them both - Thomas O'Neill III, son of the speaker of the US House of Representatives.
The younger O'Neill reportedly was not informed in advance by King's staff of its efforts to coordinate emergency procedures. Normally he would assume control of all state agencies when the governor is away.